The Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) has ordered three OTT platforms to take down ‘obscene’ content being shown by them.
The ministry has warned of action against the platforms — Hunters, Besharams and Prime Play — if they fail to comply by the directive.
According to sources, this is the first time that laws pertaining to vulgarity have been invoked against OTT platforms. Various web-series on these platforms were examined and the content was found to be prima facie obscene and borderline pornographic.
Consequently, notices were issued in the last week of October regarding violation of the IT Rules, 2021, and other laws related to obscenity and vulgarity, including Sections 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material) and 67A (publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act) of the IT Act, 2000. The platforms were given five days to ensure compliance.
All three platforms are operated by a Thane-based company, Webworld Multimedia Private Limited. A spokesperson of the company confirmed that the content was taken down, and further review of all content was being conducted.
According to sources, the I&B Ministry has been dealing with a rising number of complaints regarding vulgarity on OTT platforms. While there are 57 registered OTT platforms at present, most of these complaints pertain to unregistered platforms that have mushroomed recently.
All three platforms which were ordered to take down content were unregistered.
Sources said I&B Ministry may invoke Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, in future, which is punishable with imprisonment.
Over the last few months, I&B Minister Anurag Thakur has often spoken about the rise in obscene and abusive content on OTT platforms. “The government is serious about the complaints of increasing abusive and obscene content on OTT platforms. If there is a need to make any changes to the rules over this, the ministry will consider it… The government won’t back down from taking necessary action,” he had said earlier.
At a meeting with representatives of OTT players in July, Thakur had underlined their responsibility to ensure their platforms don’t propagate vulgarity and abuse.